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Loss Control Insights

The Dos and Don'ts of Ice Melt

Slip and fall injuries by month

According to EMC loss analysis, the average cost of a slip and fall injury exceeds $12,000. Slips and falls are much more likely to occur during the winter months, and the least expensive way to help reduce the likelihood of these accidents is to use ice melt, which is less than $20 a bag. But before you throw that ice melt on your walkways and parking areas, check out these dos and don’ts.

Don’t Apply Too Much
Less is more when it comes to ice melt. Applying excessive amounts of ice melt does not speed thawing, can lead to environmental damage and can result in excess product being tracked inside. Ice melt residue on hard-surfaced floors can reduce traction by over 40 percent, which could lead to slips and falls within your building. Although a general rule of thumb is to use ½ cup of ice melt per square yard, every ice melt product is different, so it is important to read the application instructions before using the product. Instead of using a scoop or shovel, use a handheld fertilizer spreader for small areas and a walk-behind spreader for larger areas to make sure that ice melt is evenly distributed. Consider using a product with a color additive, which helps with even distribution of the ice melt.

Do Apply Safely
Reference the application instructions for ice melt safety information. For example, when using calcium or magnesium chloride products, wearing protective gloves is a must. Always wear appropriate footwear when working outdoors on snowy or icy surfaces. Ice cleats or overshoes with abrasive pads are recommended for icy conditions, but remember to take them off when re-entering the building.

Do Apply at the Right Time
Ice melt should be applied before precipitation freezes or immediately after clearing the snow. Shoveling the slush layer from walkways after the ice melt has done its job helps reduce concrete damage from water absorption and excess thaw/refreeze cycles. Use a commercial quality sealant to help prevent moisture from seeping into the pores and cracks in concrete frequently treated with ice melt.

Do Use the Right Kind of Ice Melt
There are many types of ice meltIce Melt Type Chart products on the market, each with unique properties and costs. The cost of these blends goes up as the temperature rating goes down. You may want to have more than one type of ice melt on hand. For example, rock salt may be a good choice for late fall or early spring, but a magnesium/calcium chloride blend may be needed in January or February.

Don’t Track Ice Melt Into Your Facility
Ice melt tracked into your facility can damage floors and may result in slips and falls. To help remove ice melt from people’s shoes, use high quality scraper/wiper mats inside and outside all entrances, and clean them with an extractor or vacuum throughout the day. Add extra walkoff mats as necessary and change out saturated mats with dry ones.

Correctly applying ice melt is just one component of a comprehensive winter slip and fall program. Download a copy of EMC’s Winter Slip and Fall Prevention Program Tech Sheet for additional tips for the winter season. To develop a comprehensive slip and fall prevention program and explore other slip and fall resources, check out EMC’s Slips and Falls safety topic.

Other winter-related resources available from EMC: